The New Forest’s coastline is one of our best-kept secrets but it’s one we love to share!
We have more than 40 miles of beautiful coast to enjoy, whether you want to hunt for fossils, stand on the shores where Queen Victoria first glimpsed Osborne House, go for a walk or spend a good, old-fashioned day at the beach.
If you want a trad day out with some swimming thrown in, take your pick from the beautiful beaches of Barton on Sea, Milford on Sea, or Lepe, from whose peaceful shore Queen Victoria is said to have first glimpsed Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. (It also has an excellent café!)
Venture a little further west and you’ll come to Hordle Cliff beach, accessed from a steep set of steps. Although this is a shingle beach, at low tide a sand bar is exposed!
If you fancy a secret beach, cycle or walk to Tanners Lane near Lymington. The beach is very small and there’s no parking but, if you’re very lucky, you may be rewarded by the rare sight of the New Forest ponies paddling and rolling on the scrap of sand there as this is one of their secret beaches, too!
Another of our quieter spots is Calshot beach on the forest’s eastern side. The long, shingle spit stretches out into Southampton Water and affords some spectacular views of the Queen liners, if they are moving around. It also has a splendid Tudor fortification, built by Henry VIII, and some peaceful bathing, too. *
If you want to keep the little ones out of the water, try fossil-hunting at Barton on Sea. Stay away from the cliffs – and escort your young palaeontologist to forage for gastropods and shark’s teeth on the foreshore past the sea defences at low tide. And there are plenty of great facilities nearby, including a café and loos.
If you’d like to see some of our wilder residents, head over to Keyhaven, where the coastal reserve covers nearly 500 acres between the mouth of the Lymington River and the village of Keyhaven. You’ll have plenty of chance to spot all manner of ducks, wading birds and listen out for curlews. The Solent Way footpath runs along the beach side of the reserve, which will give you beautiful views, too.
And, if it’s a long walk you’re after, why not go to Milford on Sea and then amble along the giant shingle arm of Hurst Spit, where you’ll find a cafe with refreshments, a lighthouse, the magnificent Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight so near, you feel you could touch it.
There’s plenty of chance to try some supervised water sports and activities off the New Forest coast, too. Escape Yachting at will help you get on the water and New Forest Activities offer canoeing tours of Beaulieu River or sea kayaking. You can even try your hand at Stand Up Paddle Boarding along the coast from Milford on Sea to Hurst Castle or fishing our coastal waters. And don’t forget to check out Calshot Activities Centre, as they have bookable lessons and hire for a number of coastal activities, including sailing and paddleboarding.
*If you’re going into the sea, ALWAYS remember to check tides, current conditions and seek advice from lifeguards before entering the water.